With the coming of spring (finally), so too was the return of MasterChef Canada (finally). And what a return it was! A jam-packed two hours kicked off Season 6 with, once again, the goal of awarding the top home cook in this fine land and giving them $100,000.
And, in a twist to the audition process, judges Claudio Aprile, Alvin Leung and Michael Bonacini personally sifted through a pile of audition photos to choose the Top 18 finalists to do battle. It’s always interesting to see how the finalists interact with the judges—and each other—this early in the competition. Nerves almost always come into play, as do egos and large personalities. Both can get you eliminated pretty quickly.
Once the hand-delivered messages from the judges were delivered, we had our Top 18.
- Alyssa LeBlanc, Former Public Servant, from Tusket, N.S.
- Andre Bhagwandat, Hospital Housekeeper, from Scarborough, Ont.
- Chanelle Saks, Entrepreneur, from Calgary
- Cliff McArthur, IT Support Analyst, from Scarborough, Ont.
- Colin Buckingham, Car Salesman, from St. John’s
- Cryssi Larocque, Former Airline Agent, from Thunder Bay, Ont.
- Jamie Mayer, Healthcare Portfolio Manager, from Toronto
- Jennifer Crawford, Senior Policy Analyst, from Kingston, N.S.
- Jenny Miller, Stay-at-Home Mom, from Havre Boucher, N.S.
- Josh Miller, Youth Care Home Manager, from Regina
- Kimberly Fitzpatrick, Writer, from Ottawa
- Laurie Dingwall, Retired, from Lac Saguay, Qué.
- Lena Huynh, Lash Technician, from Burnaby, B.C.
- Marie Le Bel, Entrepreneur, from Westmount, Qué.
- Mark Hamilton, Firefighter, from Mission, B.C.
- Rozin Abbas, Digital Marketer, from Toronto
- Steven Lapointe, International Figure Skater, from Acton Vale, Qué.
- Tony La Ferrara, Soccer Coach and Retired Teacher, from Whitby, Ont.
And, as has become the custom, those finalists were tasked with preparing a signature dish in hopes of sticking around and acquiring a white apron. Each group of six—chosen by Michael, Claudio or Alvin—took a turn cooking for the judge who signed their invitation. Alvin’s group went first, with the Demon Chef serving as coach. But, in a twist, the signature dish had to be made with chicken. That threw a wrench in the plans of any home cook expecting to make their special plate. I like the shakeup in gameplay, especially when Alvin took some potshots at Michael’s expense.
Cliff’s chicken and waffles landed him an apron, and Alyssa and Josh joined him. Sadly, the other three home cooks invited by Alvin were sent home.
Up next was Chef Michael’s six, preparing something with beef as the focus. Unfortunately, Tony nicked himself during prep and was sidelined for several moments, putting his future in jeopardy. He still finished it and received an apron. Marie was the lone home cook from Michael’s team who was not handed an apron.
Finally, Chef Claudio’s six home cooks took to the floor and prepared shrimp dishes. The standouts were Jennifer’s tart, Rozin’s shrimp and grits and Andre’s curry. Cryssi received the final apron of the episode, setting up the Top 12.
There was barely a moment to celebrate before Episode 2 kicked off with the Top 12 facing their first Mystery Box and Elimination Challenges of Season 6.
Root vegetables were the name of the game for the Mystery Box, testing each home cook to reveal their own roots with an original recipe. It was interesting to see how quickly home cooks like Andre and Colin settled into plating something celebrating their upbringing or background for the second episode in a row, with the former creating a spicy Cajun purée and the latter cod with root vegetables. The judges selected Jennifer’s trout with root vegetable “scales,” Cryssi’s roasted root vegetable soup and Jenny’s vegetables five ways. Jenny won the Mystery Box a test and was safe from elimination for the week.
The season’s first Elimination Challenge featured nine different proteins for 11 cooks. Jenny’s other advantage? Saving two compatriots; she picked Cryssi and Jennifer to stick around. While some home cooks were happy to select a protein they had experience with, others chose an item they didn’t, choosing to challenge themselves. Kudos to Chanelle for taking the octopus. Meanwhile, Colin was struggling over on his station and managed to burn his salmon and had to start again. Luckily, he had more to prepare but was running out of time. Rozin wasn’t so lucky and scorched some of his lamb ragu, and Cliff discovered his duck leg wasn’t cooked enough to pull away from the bone.
The Top 2 plates were prepared by Chanelle and Tony, who are captains for next week’s team challenge. At the other end of the spectrum were Colin, Steven, Alyssa and Cliff. Alyssa and Colin were given another chance, meaning Cliff and Steven’s time in the kitchen had come to an end.
MasterChef Canada airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.
Image courtesy of Bell Media.